A leading Rhode Island politician believes that online sports betting is on the horizon for the state in 2019.
Dominick Ruggerio, president of the Rhode Island Senate, made his comments as many other states are actively looking into opening up their laws to allow online sports betting.
Legalizing sports betting in Rhode Island would be a massive boost to their current intakes and subsequent taxation revenues. New Jersey already allows mobile sports betting and it earns more revenue via mobile platforms than through physical sports betting locations.
If a lot of states start to legalize mobile sports betting, it could lead to a massive change in the gambling sector as a whole in the United States.
Mobile sports betting in RI
Senator Ruggerio is planning to make a proposal when the 2019 legislative session begins to legalize mobile sports betting.
Rhode Island had sportsbooks open in November only in its two casinos. Ruggerio is optimistic that such a measure would receive approval as it is only a matter of convenience when it comes to the now legal sports betting.
There would need to be a proper public hearing on the matter. There are those who see mobile gambling as a bad thing as it provides problem or at-risk gamblers with easier ways to gamble. However, no referendum on the issue would be needed in Rhode Island.
If Ruggerio’s proposals gets the green light, Rhode Island will be the only state in New England to have legal online sports betting, as well as one of the only regions throughout the entire nation to do so. Those opposed to such a move say that the 18,000 people who struggle with gambling in the state is a figure that will only rise.
Professor Patrick Kelly, of Providence College, has conducted research in this area. He said: “In virtually every case that I’ve studied, it’s a tragedy. So, I’m in the tragedy prevention business. If somebody can end up gambling on their phone, I think that’s a recipe for big time problems.”
However, opponents also have to consider the significant increases in tax revenues if expansionary laws come in.
Estimates as to how much additional revenue the state could see from mobile sports betting sit around the $25m mark, which is the current projection for sports betting at the state’s casinos.
Some believe these revenues could be even higher if the state implements a high level of tax on the activity. This additional revenue could be used to improve Rhode Island’s education structures and roads.
There have been high levels of demand so far for the two sportsbooks in the state since they opened. There are reports that the line at the Twin River Casino in Lincoln has lines as long as 90 minutes at the weekends.
If online betting is made legal, however, revenues will need to be further allocated to help problem gamblers. Currently, only about $125,000 goes towards problem gambler programs in the state, which is only about 1% of the state’s revenues from the activity.
With mobile sports betting likely to increase the levels of problem gambling, this is a must for many. In order to meet the current standards set out by the Council on Problem Gambling, $3m would need to go towards prevention and treatment programs for problem gambling.
Expansion further afield
Currently, there are five states in the United States where you can place legal online sports bets: Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Mississippi. These come in different shapes and sizes depending on the specific state, with some of them yet to launch their offerings.
New Jersey, for example, has been taking in more revenues from mobile sports betting than at physical locations, which showcases the demands there is. People from neighbouring states such as New York are crossing the border into New Jersey every week just so they can place their sports bets through their phones.
As more and more states start to allow mobile sports betting, the industry as a whole will expand exponentially. If you can be at a bar or in your own home and place a bet, the convenience factor naturally means that more people are going to place more bets on sporting events.
Once states realize the amount of revenues that can be generated as a result of mobile sports betting, the floodgates will open.